Vasco & Blacknut X London (Interview & Concert Footage)

Lex meets with Vasco & Black nut at Electroworkz in London and speaks to fans outside the venue. Black nut waves a bra around on stage , Vasco debuts new track and responds to racism scandal and much much more.

 

Advertisements

Currency Exchange #3 : Giriboy + DJ SQ in London: Just Music Showcase

The UK’s run of incredible KHH artist’s is only flying upwards as Cult Of Ya bring another huge name to the our shores, fresh off the heels of an Illionaire road block .  The ‘Show Me The Money’ and Just Music star will be wowing the London fans with his easy K-pop influenced rap style. But of course that’s not all don’t forget to see his label mate DJ SQ also down at the Ace Hotel doing his thing. Please see below for all vital information:

Event Date : May 1 

On Sale :  Wednesday March 30 at 10AM GMT.

VIP Ticket Limited ( 50 ) – Includes Meet & Greet (Photo with Giriboy) / Official Just Music Beanie / Early Entry at 8:15PM.

Standard Ticket –  Regular Entry at 9PM.

Scheduale 
8:15PM: VIP ticketholders entry
8:15 – 9PM: Meet & Greet with Giriboy
9PM: Standard ticketholders entry
9:15PM: DJ Illustrious One
10PM: DJ SQ
11PM: Giriboy
12 – 2: DJ SQ + DJ Illustrious One + party with Giriboy

Tickets – https://www.residentadvisor.net/event.aspx?820550

Facebook Event Page – https://www.facebook.com/events/465291933660677

@cultofya

@giriboy91

cult of YA cover.jpg

¥a Currency Exchange Show # 2: Dok2 & The Quiett

 

illionaire

This concert felt like it marked the turning point for London as a Korean Hip Hop host  City. Fresh from the Hi-lite gig in late 2015 and with Rock Bottom peeking over the horizon, it seems that ‘The Big Smoke’ has made made a name for itself as a worthwhile destination for Korea’s rapping elite. There is a fair argument to say(don’t tell Keith) that Dok2 is the most prominent Korean rap artist globally ,regularly collaborating iconic producers such as DJ Mustard and the like. The excitement for the Illionaire  Euro run was tangible. With London , Paris Berlin & Madrid all on the hitlist before casually sauntering over to SXSW in Austin Texas the event felt like an early the leg of an Unofficial Illionaire (minus Beenzino) World Tour across.

The crowd, an interesting mix of Korean Diaspora , Kpop gyal overspill and East (London) Cool Kids hugged the walls the Laundry in hot anticipation of the headliner.The standout support act was Darq E Freaker , offering the crowd a balanced mix of energetic and dreamesque production to gear them for the main event. My personal Stand out track was don’t Freak out.

But the big surge of energy was saved for Dok2 himself alighting the stage. When the Seoul native dipped on to the stage with his sidekick donning a hat bearing the the cities name , the crowd roared to welcome the champion. After briefly welcoming the audience with a few brief words , he began making his way through his extensive back catalogue. The party launched into full effect however when he drew for a trademark hit enticing the crowd to scream “Two Chains & a M**** ******* rollie back at the stage whilst the Illionaire founder brandished jewelry.

As is now becoming a bit of a  custom for London KHH gigs security were forced to intervene a record breaking 3 times!!! Similarly to the Hi-lite gig the audience showed their appreciation by getting fully gassed and bouncing each other around to the rapid high hat soundtrack to the  point of risking injury to more delicate fans somewhere among the throng. Though for the most part this was good natured it did cause interruptions to the set much to the frustration of many in attendance and at one point required Dok2 to side with security and appeal to the crowd to move back.

The approximately 40 minutes set was bought to a close by The Quiett and Dok2 returning to the stage to repeated calls of ‘Oncore’ to offer one more recital of YGGR to the appease the  crowd before offering photos. The notoriously T-total and private Dok2 charmed London audiences with the ease. Although i  have been among the number who have criticised Dok2 for mimicking American rap too closely(along with Cheetah) ,i conceed that his performances are never lacking. There is something about the way which he calmly delivers navigating the stage with a steady pace and occasionally grinning to bare his grills that just draws you in. It’s the precision among the mayhem that makes him an interesting artist. The following day the duo were announced as SMTM5 judges giving I-fans the opportunity to get there weekly Illionaire fix for a fortnight or two. This certainly felt a great moment in his career to see Dok2 and an even better time to be in the Euro KHH Squad.

L.A.R.W INTRODUCING : Kooky (Wayside Town )

Click play to listen to latest release ‘Gift Vol.1’  as you read.

 

Download Gift Vol.1  : http://www.mediafire.com/…/xrv3bpan0…/Kooky+-+Gift+Vol.1.zip

A few weeks back I found this rising artist during one of my usual twilight music raids. The skillful pianist caught my attention with his quintessentially Seoul Hip Hop production style. Whilst the instrumentals would sound perfectly at place with say San-E riding them , The Wayside Town boys bring a certain edge and defiance that the ‘Show Me The Money’ Judge couldn’t deliver. The crew consists of rappers and vocalists Young V , Lil K (collectively sub unit ‘U.F.O Boyz’ ) , Jay Swink , Simba Zawadi, , Ovan , Loki & Urb Fisher . I  made a mental note then allowed the Sandman to whist me away to the land of Lexical dreams till a few days later , during daylight hours the heavily tattood Producer popped up on my timeline. An eagerness to discover where the nucleus of their sound came from led me to the ever charismatic Producer & Professional Engineer Kooky.  Finally I managed to leur Kooky away from the piano for an interview via Skype with the help of our beautiful  L.A.R.W translator Essie. So  L.A.R.W proudly introduces Kooky :

LEX : Wassup? Firstly an introduction. Where are you from and  what do you do?

 
Kooky : Hey! I’m from Seoul and i’m a Music Producer and Engineer. I used to do jazz but now i make hip hop & RnB.

 
LEX:  Your part of a crew called Wayside Town. How did you get the name.

 

Kooky: The name actually pre-dates me joining the group. It was made up by the Lil K , who founded the crew initially. I came into the fold later on.

 

LEX:  How did you end up joining the guys ?

 

Kooky  : I’m cool with two artists called Super B and Myeondo. They were friends with the other crew members too and one night we met up for beers and whatever , then something clicked and i guess we just all started working together.

 

Essie (L.A.R.W Translator) :  Myeondo means shaving btw. (Giggles)

 

Lex: *Ponders*  Sick name. So you mentioned before that you used to make Jazz. What made you change?

 

Kooky : Jazz is the foundation of my music. It’s where i started but i  ended up here because I love the freedom Hip Hop and RnB give me to comment on real life situations and address whatever i’m experiencing or going through.

 

Lex: So who are your main influences?

 

Kooky: *Responds without any hesitation* Ray Charles.

 

Lex: So apart from him if you could collaborate with any artist dead or alive who would it be?

 

Kooky : Incognito & Brian Culbertson are both really incredible and have shaped my sound so much.

 

Lex: For those that are new to scene in your opinion what’s unique about Korean hip hop?

 

Kooky: Since Hip Hop came from the United States its influenced by it but is lyrically different. The difference in language gives us our own rhyming style and expression in general. We’re from a different place so what we do reflects that.

 
Lex: How do you feel about the return of Unpretty Rapstar an Show Me The Money in 2016?

 

Essie(L.A.R.W Translator): *Laughs* Oh boy!

 

Kooky : I’m neutral to be honest because there’s Pro’s and cons. The good thing about the shows is that they expose Hip Hop to the media but what’s not so good is that it’s ‘Hip Hop lite’. The subject matters and everything don’t really reflect the scene at large. I don’t see it as real Hip Hop but yeah , i can see the advantages and disadvantages.

 

Lex: What do you think the acquisition of AOMG & Hi-lite Records by CJ E&M mean for the scene?

 

Kooky : It’s OK , because overall the scene needs money to carry on growing.

 

Lex: What can we look forward to form yourself and Wayside Town?

 

Kooky: Wayside have a lot coming out this year both collectively and in terms of individual releases. But i’m looking to get Stateside for the end of 2016 so i can study and work with as many Artists as possible. I’m deciding between L.A , New York & Boston but i’m excited either way.

 

Lex: Thanks for your time Kooky! Peace!

Instagram: ps_wan
Facebook: www.facebook.com/tkddhksaos

Download Gift Vol.1  : http://www.mediafire.com/…/xrv3bpan0…/Kooky+-+Gift+Vol.1.zip

_____________________________________________________

Soundcloud : Young V ( Wayside Town) Founder

 

 

 

UNDERGROUND VS IDOL. THE WAR IS ALMOST OVER!

As Asian media behemoth CJ E&M takes ownership of a second Korean Hip-Hop label within only a matter of months many eyebrows across our fandom furiously furrow. On the 6th of January the company announced they had “acquired AOMG, today’s trendiest hip-hop label.” The wording of the statement is unlikely to have gone down too well with Jun Sang Hyun , A.K.A Paloalto , founder of legendary label Hi-lite Records who also merged his own label with the company months earlier.

A naive outsider might expect international fans to be excited at the prospect of increased tour budgets , shinee’er (pun intended) videos and generally seeing artistry played out on a grander scale but i assure you this isn’t the case. Responses on SNS have ranged from “why’s Jay doing this, AOMG don’t need anyone’s help” to pre-empted rage at the idea of Okasian transforming into a dance routine hammering , shiny suit wearing , Girls Generation collaborating ghost of his former self.

Owing to this Korean Hip Hop begins 2016 in somewhat new territory. CJ E&M arn’t the only ones throwing cash at the scene. Even YG have funded Teddy and Kush to begin an independant label under their umbrella. Sure , major labels have exhibited confidence in the culture’s ability to sell units , but never has so much capital been injected into so many underground brands in such a short period. To many hardened KHH fans this signifies the encroachment of corporate Korea into sacred lands. But to me this indicates the dawn of an exciting new era.

Whilst interviewing the owner of Cult of Ya , Hoon Gold for a documentary on the history of Korean Hip Hop the topic of “The Beef” as i like to call it came up. The L.A boy boasts responsibility for bringing a host of artists to the EU for a set of sold out shows spanning several countries including B-free , Okasian , Paloalto , Dok2 & The Quiett and even Kieth Ape’s muse Og Maco. As we sat in the avant gaurde West London Office, with rare British sunlight peeping through the windows, the immaculate fashion designer slash promoter appeared as if having just stepped off set. Covered in fresh to def attire from his own clothing brand, Hoon settled in his chair awaiting my first question.

“Hip hop in Korea is entering the mainstream and i can tell that just by looking at all the clubs and the events. Show’s like Show Me the Money are popular but they’re polarizing. The average fans just listen to whatever appeals to them but the industry don’t see it like that. The underground artists grinded from the bottom upwards. They had to hand out their CD’s and hustle it to get to where they are now. The idol artists are the result of having huge funds poured into them There’s a difference between the way that fans see these artists and the way these artists themselves see the whole hip hop scene. If you listen to Pop artists they’re lyrical content doesn’t have a message. They seem really, petty, you know first world problems.” When Exo’s wolf drops ‘I feel the sensation; I feel it at once. I’ll take you in one mouthful like cheese’ one can see why idol’s lyrical prowess isnt always what they’re remembered for.

For as long as this generation of fans can remember , artists rapping in Hangul have been split starkly into two categories. Idols , characterized by squeaky clean raps , served on a bed of over produced instrumentals and a hot side of coordinated choreography. A legitimate criticism of these type of rappers is that they only started barring when some “INSERT LEAST FAVORITE MAJOR LABEL HERE” big wig told them to. Their role was simply to create the illusion of ‘edginess’ by mimicking the attitude and attire of the populist genre , often without understanding of the mask they wore clumsily. That being said genuine talents have emerged from the school most notably B-Block’s Zico. In the other camp you have your underground rappers. It’s important to understand that in this context underground means non major label manufactured more than anything else. The soundcloud grinding , Haeundae Beach battling backbone of the musical revolution. They dress , eat and breath this shit for real. Applying the strong Korean work ethic they strive in pursuit of the rags to riches tale told by many of their American heroes. Preferring a hooded swagger to hip grinding choreography the true flag bearers have long been overlooked in favour of more polished , better funded Pop stars.

This clash of tribes was well exemplified by B-free’s robust challenging of BTS. Sure that won him an onslaught of abuse from the Bangtang die hards but he prompted an important conversation. Is the nucleus of Korean Hip Hop really best viewed on Mnet and the like? Though the answer seems obvious , for many International K-pop fans this was the first time they’d been made aware that there was a whole class of rappers outside of glossy Idol Land.

Whilst the hostility across the divide is rabid and unrelenting at times it has has been born out of clear rationality. When a whole generation watches Epic High abandon everything that solidified their slot as pioneers only to churn out disposable, ringtone rap , many fans appalled , said screw the majors. Not to forget witnessing Tiger JK surf in and out of exploitative contracts and eventually forced to accept helping hands from artists they musically burped. Again many fans said screw the labels. But to be continually dazzled by these real injustices only blinds us to the changes in musical consumption happening all around us.

But soon our conversation flowed on into the rapidly changing views of Hip Hop by corporate Korea. “Hip Hop is becoming commercialized in idol culture. They’re realizing it sells , It goes hand in hand with culture and fashion and sometimes idols are being told to rap just for that reason. It’s similar to what some pop artists are doing out here to cash in on the popularity of EDM and the festival scene. For the next few years Hip Hop is going to be in the Korean mainstream for sure.The manufactured hip hop sounds are going to have to grow up though. When you have a look at Ken Rebel and The Cohort‘s collaborations Underwater Rebels that content looked so fresh and so different. Alot of hip-hop from the far east is really influenced by what’s happening out here but we’re all gonna mature out of this and find something more unique.

His point is extremely valid. How long could G-Dragon pass as an authentic voice for the scene with Dok2 and swings looming in the charts. It’s reminiscent of when Will Smith’s brand of sickeningly straight edged rap become redundant in the early – mid 2000’s. He tried to make a come back with a lame family friendly dance number called ‘Switch’ the same year 50 Cent dropped ‘Get rich or die trying.’ We didn’t care because our expectations and understanding of what a rapper was had evolved to be closer in line with that of the underground. Needless to say he was dropped by his record label like a sack of big eared potatoes as diluted rap was no longer required for a millennial mainstream audience.

There are cultural forces however that challenge rawer Hip Hop becoming as prominent as it is in the Western mainstream. With Confucianist  ideals running strongly through the veins of Korean society there has been understandable discomfort about the nature of some content. Fortunately the internet offers a way for fans to access music away from those it may offend. Theoretically this allows the scene to avoid the whole public N.W.A CD destroying phase that we experienced in the West during Hip Hop’s early years.

“Censorship doesn’t even matter Hoon sais” I mean E-sens has his issues so he came to the EU to record an album. Now days artists will find a way. Its not like when hip hop exploded in the states in the 80’s and 90’s and tele and radio were the gatekeepers. Monmae got banned from tele and still charted, right?”

When i was a kid and my evening’s were spent bootlegging music from the radio, i always wondered why Sony owned a record label but manufactured blank cassettes. It seemed so counter intuitive to my 9 year old mind. Eventually i grasped they understood that music piracy was inevitable and missing revenue wouldn’t benefit anyone but their rivals. Is it time for fans to view the situation for what it truly is. Labels aren’t throwing money at the Underground because they wish to alter it beyond recognition, it’s because if they don’t start paying attention to what’s swelling beneath their feet they’re at risk of becoming bystanders. Jay Park & Paloalto are in a position of power rarely held by artists. They can legitimately demand “ Work with us in a respectful fashion or we’ll carry on getting money without you “ CJ E&M have very little to gain from tinkering with winning formulas. If their treatment of Illionaire Records is anything to go by , they understand that candying up an already respected hip hop brand will compromise credibility and therefore profitability. Simultaneously Idols and their creators are being forced to reconsider what an Idol rapper sounds like due to the audiences increased awareness of the real deal. As the interview came to a close , Hoon casually threw an interesting prediction in the air. “Despite what people think i feel the tension between Idol and Underground is gonna get better. I personally think that we should all grow out of it. If you have a look Hip Hop wars used to be between factions , East Coast Vs West Coast and that bowled over in the 90’s. I’m just about good music and that’s what i think fans should concentrate on.” KHH fans would do well to remember that in the nation of the Mothership the likes of Universal have no issues simultaneously having The Game & Taylor Swift on their roster. Hip Hop globally prides itself on being rebellious so maybe i shouldn’t be so shocked at the reluctance to let go an outsider status. But if being honest the ground has been left supple by the steps of the Idols many have grown to resent. The only smart response is to exploit the groundwork of your rivals. As i blaze J-Hope’s 1 Verse for the 6th time consecutively the divide seems ever more arbitrary. The Great Idol Wall has it’s days numbers and CJ E&M just started the countdown. 10,9………..

Kohh – Dirt Album Review

REVIEWED :  5 / 5

kohh

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dirt/id1047491457 – Buy Kohh – Dirt Album

It was in his February 2014 vice documentary Rising from the Tokyo projects. Meandering along the bridge with interviewer and chubby younger sibling ‘Lil Kohh’ the Yellow Tape’s star proclaims  ‘I’m surrounded by people who stab people and are drug addicts but we chose not to follow that path and rap instead. Though a well worn ‘ghetto boy’ cliche ,that falsely limits viable options to escape poverty , it does intrigue you as to what a  Tokyo highrise might look like. More importantly it places Kohh among the fabric of the genre.Whilst rapping has long moved on from being exclusively the sport of the socially disadvantaged , the knowledge that Kohh’s widowed Mother wrestled with drug addiction and subsequently neglected him and his brother for large parts of their adolescence , starts to offer an insight into the forgotten children of a heavily ordered society. Adorning themselves in bold Versace print and gleefully waving multiple packages of illicit substances at the camera, the Riverside Mobb have an unabashed recklessness less familiar to Japanese hip hop.

Kohh’s had status in his home city for a while now, but in truth the feature on Korean rapper Keith Ape’s  IT G MA diversified his fanbase greatly. The free download turned into a viral smash , generating completely unexpected income and opportunity for the now major owned Hi-lite records.  Pretty soon Keith and his Cohort brothers, Okasion & JayAllDay could be seen on Youtube duppying mic , to engaged crowds. Though Kohh was notably absent from several high profile American performances his contribution had been noticed by the songs admirers.  Something about his conversational flow spat through grilled teeth , whilst  brandishing a beer  and the scrawled purple font displaying ‘arigato’ at the perfect moment seemed share worthy to the internet folk.  So a mixtape, plagiarism dispute , and several European video shoots later , we’re here.The Thirteen track album ‘Dirt’ is an attempt to make good on the attention he’s found himself subject to. But internet affection is fleeting , impatient and extremely conditional. For everyone’s sake , this needs to count

Be Me

The album opens with a vintage American crooner singing of  lost love. The mournful tone broken by a cautious drum beat and Kohh asking rhetorically ‘you got money’ before assuring us that his crews days as have nots are behind them and taunting envious scenesters who wished they were him.

Dirt Boys

A synth that sounds like a malfunctioning time machine draws us into track 2. The album’s title ushers us into the album proper. Kohh flo’s rapidly about excessive spending with his family of delinquents , boasting that clothes and drugs are in no short supply nowadays. Dutch Montana has an ODB charm about him. Throwing a cryptic bar of rugged wisdom every time your attention starts to waver from his disjointed flow. Loota , the other half of Team Japan on It G ma contributes a bleak outlook on morality announcing ‘results over reason in this cold world.’

Living Legend

The blue hearts influence is most evident in this track. Whilst Kohh repeats the lyric every four bars he is demanding adulation before he self destructs from self indulging impulses. He hints at his own death as no more than an inevitable end to the rollercoaster he’s constructed. To live fast and die young literally never appeared more reasonable.

Now

A sound reminiscent of a burgler alarm gives way only for a menacing bassline, biding its time until its full fury is unleashed. Kohh’s Ya Ya Ya gives a warning this about to be a moment. ‘Living , living  now we’re living now’ he chants as if answering the unasked ‘Was life really that lame before this?’ The charged bass batters home the raucas revelry of a deprived Tokyo boy , who’s achieved social mobility overnight following his dreams. Self control and modesty are fully myths today.

Hitori

On Hitori he finally caters to his is extensive female fanbase. The song which translates roughly to alone has an almost sarcastically lonely feel to it. In the middle there’s a  bridge with 90’s computer game sounds and in the end we’re led away with a Jazzy keyboard rift.

Tokyo

An attempt at making a city anthem, he beckons his home metropolis relentlessly as if a impatient young prince demanding subjects to gather for his crowning as king. Manipulated vocals incorporated into the drum beat give the whole track a sense of urgency and sees all of his trademark adlibs united for the first time. The exorcistic frantic piano melody of the chorus is what differs this from say Hi -lite records ‘My city ‘ or Devlin’s London city. What this track lacks in city patriotism it makes up for by taking a kodak to the cities shadows.

A Different Day

The first of two features on the album on this track J $tash enters with his trademark growl then goes on to boast on insular folks from his own neighborhood of getting money in Shinjuku and coping jewelry. The autotuned chorus sees Kohh adopt a dancehall inspired delivery to talk of the new horizons that await him.

If I Die Tonight

Getting the feel the album is taking a turn for the sombre. Dutch Montano re-enters over ethereals and a ticking clock drum beat painting a  dark Oji night. With his sometimes odd but endearing style Dutch Montano navigates himself through the beat as Kohh  sings ‘if i died tonight’ repeatedly on the hook. Salu , a firm L.A.R.W favourite ends proceedings with his signature high voice and reflective style.

Shiniyashinai

Stuttered drums and Pitch shifted male harmonies set the tone perfectly.  Kohh unleashes multiple of his signature high pitched call. Whilst percussion rings out every two bars sounding like a xylophone beater running playfully over the ribcage of dead enemies. Kohh name checks John Lennon and uses the track to exemplify a pressing , yet melodic style.

Shoko

Shoko i’ve been informed is a type of mantis shrimp , found in the Western Pacific , though in this case it means Society. Maybe that explains the high pitched vocal declaring   ‘i don’t fuck with you’  Kohh flo’s over the electro pop tinged instrumental with a  good strong variety. A wall of synths arriving part way through verse two ratchet up the drama further. The track ends cinematically with a wave deforming slow down and the panting breath of someone near a carriageway.

Glowing Up (ft J $tash)

Kohh exemplifies the rapid soft rhyming flow that started this journey, J Stash mocks rivals for still being satisfied with hanging out in Soho. The second of Kohh’s verses sees a textbook Chicago flo cut into a new linguistic format before he chants almost absent mindedly that he’s just glowing up.

Kirakuni Yaru

The song translates roughly into easy to do and is The closest Kohh gets on the whole album to singing. Drawing towards the close of the album , i guess it feels time to solidify the message. Once the boasts of  exotic women , fashion and designer drugs expire ,  we’re left with a young man adjusting to fame and whose rise has been alarmingly fast by any standards. To the seas of rap kids he offers encouragement that a tomorrow can be carved out by a determined dreamer.

Orera no seikatsu

So it feels like the album has really already ended and we’re on the hunt for a bonus banger. As a massive Mony Hoarse fan, it felt like my favourite midfielder being subbed on in the 80th to antagonise the opposition  despite us being 4-0 up. He wastes no time in possession with plenty of English expletives and a pressure  flow to pathe the way for Kohh to spray the final chorus of the project.

It’s hard not to feel like you’re looking into future. As his slim frame perfectly stalks the camera surrounded by bright neon lights and city pollution, you wonder how on earth this hasn’t happened yet. How have the west never championed a Japanese rapper. The nation’s contribution to Western hip hop culture has been mighty but traditionally been more aesthetic than musical, e.g Evisu , B.A.P.E as well as uncountable Manga references , including the comic artform being the namesake for one member of UK grime crew, Roll Deep. But for the first time an International Japanese superstar seem conceivable.Theoretically Keith Ape should be the primary benefactor from the viral whirlwind Kohh found himself engulfed in. But i don’t think that’s how it’s going to pan out. This album doesn’t try to mimic what’s already come to pass  in the west. Instead it makes a welcome contribution to our genre’s still assembling idea of what a ‘trap’ rapper actually is.The sub genre allows a punkish liberty, with credibility less dependant on the the body count of an artist’s home city or how many times they make listeners to draw for a thesaurus. Instead trap , favours an ‘attitude over ability approach’.The lack of emphasis on the technical intricacies of lyricism bode well for the rapper seeking to expand his already significant non-japanese speaking fanbase. Kohh is only a well chosen feature away from becoming that Tokyo yout everyone fucks with. Striking visuals and a stella beat selection make this album a solid foundation for himself and other Japanese trap friendly artists to propel himself further into the new age trap movement.  The suicide riddled blocks of Oji have created the Japanese Raps new poster boy.  Broaden your shoulder’s Kohh , an awful lot could be riding on you.

Asian Girls Are Leaders Of The ‘ Femcee’ New School

937235-screenshot

Komukai from trio ‘Suiyoubi no Campanella’

Since the beginning of my love affair with Asian hip hop , i’ve found myself being drawn to the scenes female artists . Whether it’s A.O.A’s Jimin with her entrancing yet defiant tone or pioneer Yoon Mi-rae ‘s socially conscious musings of being in a society unfamiliar with  multicultural families, i’ve always found Asian female rappers more advanced than their Western counterparts

Now let me hasten to add , by no means am I implying that the sisterhood of ‘femcess’ on both sides of our Atlantic are without their great talents.Lil Simz , Nicki Minaj and Missy Elliot are all valued parts of the tapestry. Just before i began my scribbles i saw Lady Leshurr – Queens Speech Ep 4 soaring into the 3 million views plus. In the M/V she sails down a deserted carriageway delivering boasts of bars,beauty, and Brum city before breaking into a quirky pro dental hygiene hook. No doubt much of the attention can be equated  to the track  featuring in the new Samsung advert Stateside.

But by and large female rappers in the West (definately UK) are collectively less relevant than the guys. This isn’t because woman are any less adept at rapping. Common sense suggests language has always been the forte of the fairer sex. Part of the problem is that Western hip hop at the moment is inherently less accommodating of female presence. Drill ,Trap and grime alike are characterised by restless high hats and menacing bass and hard content, often of a drug , violent or sexual hue.  Of course women can be aggressive and sexual , but the format for expression is so hegemonically masculine. These conditions can be thanked for such lyrical gems as  “you think i’m pussy i dare you to stick your dick in this” ,spoken in 97 by queen of ex-rated rap & Bad Boy’s first lady,  Lil Kim. The problem was that by engaging in hyper-vulgarity she quickly became pidgeon holed a novelty act , almost like a rhyming pornstar. When was the last time you heard someone name Jenna Jameson among their favourite all time actors.  You could argue Lil Kim’s career was more or less shocking an audience sufficiently to listen and then retaining them a little longer due to her affiliations. Slightly dramatic, but the point is that girls aren’t as free to be themselves in Western Hip Hop. The result? Endless Dull 2D interchangeable female rap persona’s bludgeoned of all feminine mystique and a scene desperately in need of consistently strong female presence.

Journey to Tokyo City where you’ll find trio Suiyoubi No Campanella. Their name consists of Italian and Japanese and translates as Wednesday’s Bell.  The female lead vocalist  Komukai has a wistful , melodic rapping style. By combining  exciting jazz tinged , electronica production often with animated videos , the group have created a uniquely Japanese body of work. With subject matters ranging from romance to vampires Komukai makes no apologies for being a rapping female. Infact some of her vocal lightness has often left me feeling envious. Daoko has a similar production style and is another example of  Eastern Hip Hop girl power. Her feature on the viral animated short film  ME ME ME sees her rhyming accompanied by semi-porongraphic imagrey depicting a man being murdered by a sexy vixen he was lusting over from his computer screen a la ‘The Ring.’ That narrative just wouldn’t have worked as well with a male vocalist. Both of these artists are leading beacons for brave new sounds, that enrich our broad church. Rather than checking their Womanhood at the studio door they’ve developed a musical landscape that welcomes them. Artists such as Charisma.com , Makura and Bonjur Suzuki are other great examples of the great female electroinc wave washing over Japan’s Hip Hop Over & Underground.

As I-fans wait impatiently for subs to come out for Unpretty Rapstar 2 , it’s hard to not feel that there’s alot Western females could learn from the rhyming Women out East. Maybe its because Eastern rap doesn’t put such a heavy emphasis on rebellion , narcotics and violence that it’s more accommodating of woman rappers. Or maybe it’s because hip hop has impacted Asian society at a time when gender equality is a more prominent concept than it was in late 1970’s USA. But one thing is for certain. Girls in Asian hip hop fit it better and are finding better responses when they don’t. They have more room to be interesting, cool and beautiful on their own terms.

I state again i don’t wish to insinuate that girls in our scene should be resigned to speaking of heartache and motherhood. I do however, think female rappers could be more relatable to the legions of female fans of the genre , rather than donning a mask of masculine bravado and finding themselves dismissed as eye-candy by men. I hope this changes. Gender balance improves everything. Our genre is no exception. But for now the woman of Asian rap are definitely the leaders of the new school.